Yesterday I wrote about Senator Murray’s tax increase threat and compared it to the Tea Party / conservative Republican debt limit threat of last summer.  A friend pointed out that in her threat Senator Murray left herself an escape hatch.

Here is the key sentence from the Senator’s Monday speech at Brookings (emphasis is mine).

So if we can’t get a good deal—a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share—then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013, rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle class families under the bus.

With this language Senator Murray did not rule out supporting a one or two year extension of all income tax rates, including the top rates.  She only ruled out “locking in a long-term deal this year.”

Technically she could also agree to a long-term deal that extends all the tax rates, as long as it was enacted in 2013 rather than this year.  She could, for instance, vote for a two month extension of all rates in December, allowing President Romney and Republican House and Senate majorities to then enact a long-term extension of all rates without her vote.   I think that is a minor scenario compared with the primary flexibility she left herself to support a one or two year extension of all tax rates if President Obama is reelected.

I have no doubt that Senator Murray is serious in her desire to raise tax rates on the rich and successful small business owners.  At the same time, given that she voted for the 2010 law that extended all tax rates, including the top rates, for two years, I wonder how much her current threat matters.  I also wonder if her allies on the Left realize she has left herself an easy way out to support a bill they would oppose.

I still think she is using a Tea Party tactic and threatening serious economic damage if her tax increase demand is not met.  Her demand, however, is less rigorous than I had originally thought.

(photo credit: un flaneur)